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our process: painting + Materials

Next in our series about the process behind creating The Modern Saints: the actual part of painting!

While traditional iconographers use a paint called egg tempera, I use a much more basic acrylic. The kind I use is on the cheaper end, (mostly because I started buying it in college!) but I realized that this kind is much thinner and transparent, forcing me to work in many more layers and focus on the application more, just like egg tempera does. It also allows light to come through in the way that is meant for icons to be “illuminated”. I also stuck with this paint because I see it as an honest offering of the materials and means that I have that make sense for me as an artist! Materials are seen as part of the offering of the iconographer, and this adds another layer of “modernity” to the process, too, since acrylic is a very new kind of paint and plastic is a defining (if often negative) piece of our generations.

To finish the piece, I add a border line (traditionally called a filyonka) and the saint’s name to the piece. Doing this is said to convey the spirit of the person depicted on to the piece and also, in traditional pieces where most saints are portrayed looking nearly the same, it is a way to tell who is in the image. To do this, I use the Koine Greek dialect that is most often found on Byzantine pieces. While I try my hardest, some of the names of more recent saints are much harder to translate!

I then add decorative hanging hardware to some pieces, and sign the reverse. Most iconographers preferred to remain anonymous, seeing themselves not as artists, but vessels.


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